8 December 2010
We are very excited to leave and by 7am we left the camp in order to get refill on our cooking gas bottle as we are not sure when the next availability will be. Afterwards we head out straight north on the M1 direction Mzuzu.
The whole countryside is deforested and everywhere subsistence farming is evident. It is terrible to see the scars in the countryside where nearly every forest is chopped down for firefood and to make place for farming. Malawi, as mentioned, is one of the world's poorest nations and that means off course that they need to live off the land in order to survive. We can't point a finger at them either for destroying the land either, because us as European descendants did the same thing in Europe - we destroyed the forests to plant our crops. When we colonised Africa, well, it was the wildlife that fell in front of our rifles. And if we put ourselves in their shoes what would we do - starve and safe nature or fill our stomachs to the detriment of our surroundings? Not an easy issue. Yesterday I had a conversation with a Scotman who is living here in Malawi and he told me the story that in the south the people are so poor, they chop down the mango trees for fire food. Problem is during times of draught, the tree goes into stress and produces more fruit and this helps the people again through lean times. But no tree, no food. And the vicious circle is complete.
Closer to the town of Mzuzu, we start seeing more indigenous forests and it is really pretty with winding roads, big granite outcrops and planted blue gum and pine tree forests. It feels like driving on the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga or in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Stopped next to one of these rocky outcrops for lunch. Our highest point today was just over 1800m above sea level. The rain followed us constantly and every now and then drove into a wet patch. After a quick bakery stop in Mzuzu we pressed on but realised our idea of going to the highlands of Nyika will not b,e due to lots of thick clouds and potentially very bad muddy roads. As we know we have no other choice in Tanzania in regards to muddy roads, we decided to continue to the low-lying lake. Going down the mountain pass just after Rumphi is truly spectacular with the mountains dropping nearly straight down into the lake. We could see all the way across Lake Malawi and even see the mountains on the Mozambique side. Our camp site is right on the shores of the lake and as we stopped we had to take a thousand pictures. We are the only ones in this beautiful camp site. Our tents are set under beautiful old acacia trees and on lush lawns stepping straight onto the beach sand.
We bought wild mushrooms today to try. They are often larger than a dishing plate. They taste like, mmmmm, mushrooms.
9 December 2010
This morning we intended to leave by 11am but at 7am we had the odd drop of rain on the tents and had to pack quickly to prevent packing in the rain. Fortunately the rain lasted and we could enjoy a relaxing morning overlooking the lake. Very very peaceful here and one can easily spend a few days just to unwind. The owner of Chitimba Camp has found 2 owl chicks under a tree which was chopped down. He saved them and they are the most adorable things ever. Soft, fluffy and huge eyes. One was even so tame to sit and pose for a photo on my hands.
At 10am we decided to venture into the rain and head out along the scenic lake drive to a town called Karonga, got rid of all our remaining money by buying fuel with it. The border post affair was quick and painless again. Getting into Tanzania was also quick and very efficient. We only had to pay US$5 for Road Tax and US$20 for Foreign Vehicle Tax (a lot cheaper than the R850 border crossing from Botswana into Zambia with some 5 different taxes!).
And if you think Malawi is green, it is a desert compared to the drive from the border to the first major city, Mbeya. We started off at 500m above sea level and within a few minutes we were at 2300m. Everything is green even the telephone poles are in flower!!! Well, nearly. Bananas, pineapples, plums, tomatoes, potatoes and even tea can be found in abundance. The hills are running into the never-ending green distance and this is one of my personal favourite parts of Tanzania. We got plenty of rain but it did not deter us from enjoying the landscape. Lots of people as well and finding a break between the stream of people to answer the call of nature, is quite tricky. We got to Mbeya and it was bucketing down. Decided to splash out for the night and staying at Utengule Coffee Farm, a place I always visit with the motor bike groups and they gave us a slight discount. Nice to sleep warm in a proper bed and with food being prepared and no dishes. Lovely view from the farmhouse as well.
Tomorrow is D-Day. We heard the road is a real shocker, so we hope to do the 1000km stretch to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika in some 4 days. Hopefully some internet connection there again.